Weston College student given a 70-year time trip to learn about equine studies in World War 2
By YouPR | Friday, October 19, 2012, 11:58
A Weston College student was thrilled to receive her great uncle's lecture notes on war horses from his time serving as a soldier in India during World War 2.
Former Royal Fusilier, Alastair Masson, 92, sent his 19-year-old grandniece, Ella Ashton, lessons, lectures and drawings, written in Calcutta 70 years ago.
Ella, of Waverly Road, Backwell, who is studying Level 3 Horse Management, said: "It was amazing to receive this and I felt very emotional reading it."
Weston College Senior Tutor and Lecturer in Biological Science (Animal/Equine), Gill Cook, said: "It's an incredible window into the past.
"While the terminology is old-fashioned, the theory isn't that different, with exam papers, notes and riding lesson plans very similar to what we would use.
"A major difference is injury treatment. Modern medicine has moved on since the 1940s when open wounds were treated with sulphur which would have been painful.
"Interestingly, show jumping and mounted games evolved from the War and I loved Alistair's 1942 booklet 'Mud Sports' about equine games for soldiers.
"It included a competition where soldiers smoking cigarettes, raced horses to a pole with three balloons. They had to pop the balloons with the lit cigarette still in their mouths.
"Horses today would hate balloon popping so it shows how amazingly well-trained and steady these war horses were."
Alistair Masson, still lives in Markinch, Fife. He was an expert horseman who taught at the Recreational ******tion and Horsemanship Club in Calcutta.
Some of his students belonged to the Calcutta Light Horse, part of the British Indian Army Cavalry Reserve which was disbanded after India's independence in 1947.
The elite group were noted for their covert attack against the German ship, Ehrenfels which was transmitting information on Allied ship movements to U-boats.
The British cavalry officers sailed on a barge to Goa and the saboteurs sunk the German ship in March 1943.
British intelligence then sent false warnings that they would invade Goa which led to German crews of two other ships, the Drachenfels and Braunfels, scuttling their ships and destroying Italian ships to prevent possible British capture.
Their courageous action became inspiration for a book entitled 'Boarding Party: The Last Action of the Calcutta Light Horse' as well as the 1980 film The Sea Wolves starring Gregory Peck and David Niven.
Ella, who owns a 16-hand thoroughbred sports horse, aims to study a degree in Equine Management after spending three years at Weston College.
She said: "My great uncle had an amazing time and it's an incredible gift and link to my family's past which has been lovely to share with lecturers and students."
Her mum, Kay, added: "Alistair knew she was passionate about horses and you can tell from his notes that his time in India was very precious and it's a wonderful gift to Ella."
For more information on courses at Weston College please visit www.weston.ac.uk or telephone 01934 411411